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Former ICC CEO Malcolm Speed’s stand against the controversial Big Three proposal may turn out to be crucial, says Arunabha Sengupta.
As the quake threatens to create a huge chasm in the cricket world, the tremors have reached far and wide – even back across time. Several former administrators of the International Cricket Council (ICC) have come out lodging emphatic protests against the finance and governance draft proposal submitted by the cricket boards of India, England and Australia.
Former ICC President Ehsan Mani has recently out with a 13-page statement claiming that the paper raised “serious governance issues including lack of transparency and conflict of interest”. And in the aftermath of this statement, he has gone forward to compose a letter to ICC and the member nations requesting that the now almost infamous proposal be withdrawn immediately.
The letter has been signed by a host of names who had held powerful portfolios in the not-too-distant past – including former West Indian captain Clive Lloyd, former Pakistan Cricket Board presidents Shahrayar Khan and Lieutenant General Tauqir Zia and the former Bangladesh Cricket Board president Saber Hossain Chowdhury.
What is most significant, however, is that this letter also carries the signatures of two erstwhile members of the Australian Board – former ICC President Malcolm Gray and the former ICC Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Speed. Their willingness to oppose the actions indulged in by their former organisation makes compelling argument for the seriousness of the issue.
It is Speed whose presence in the opposition camp to the Big Three that seems most relevant.
As a former Melbourne barrister and businessman, Speed is ideally positioned to understand the financial motivation behind the proposal and will be the right person to find loopholes in the process and procedure followed so far. He had been the CEO of the Australian Cricket Board from 1997 to 2001, and is well aware of the workings of the body even after it was renamed as Cricket Australia (CA). In fact Speed still has a working relationship with the current CA CEO James Sutherland as part of the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports. He had played a role in the Argus report as well.
Besides, he is no stranger either to the dynamics in ICC having been the CEO of the organisation from 2001 to 2008. And perhaps most importantly, his showdowns with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) are legendary.
During his days as the CEO of ICC, Speed had plenty of wrangles with the Indian Board.When,in 2011,he published the memoirs of his ICC days – a thoroughly interesting volume titled Sticky Wicket – a Decade of Change in World Cricket– it included an entire chapter dedicated to the showdown with the then BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmiya. Named A 15-rounder With Dalmiya, it thoroughly details the relationships he had enjoyed and suffered with the Indian Board over the Mike Dennessaffair of 2001 – the first major crisis with BCCI in the power centre.
In his book, Speed describes Dalmiya as someone who had a “manic determination to make India a world cricket power”. It is pretty obvious he never warmed to the power politics of BCCI, and took the burning of effigies and the public protests a bit too seriously. He was also not quite amused at being branded a ‘platinum blonde lawyer’ by the Times of India. However, he also demonstrated a balanced view when he wrote“Dalmiya, of whom I have been critical in these pages… taught the ICC how to capitalise on its new revenue stream.”
N Srinivasan may be an entirely different kettle of fish, but it is clear that Speed has had plenty of experience of standing up against the bullying tactics of BCCI. Additionally he also has a pragmatic take on the way the Indian Board has flourished and raked money into the game.
After the 2001 crisis, Speed continued to work as a tough administrator alongside four ICC Presidents – Gray, Mani, Percy Sonn and Ray Mali. Although popular among his colleagues, his image to the world remained that of a tough stickler for rules. At the end of his book, he mentions: “I was never going to be warm, soft and friendly, and I was not in cricket to win any popularity contest.”
In view of his experiences with the Indian Board, his ability to take tough stand and the influence he still carries within CA, Speed’s opposition of the proposal and the public airing of his views may be crucial in the way matters transpire following the current impasse.
Speed has opposed the proposal, but has gone on to say that he has complete faith in Wally Edwards. The communication channels have thus remained open. But will this convince Edwards to withdraw support for the proposition? That still remains to be seen.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)
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